Things feel pretty intense right now with coronavirus fears running rampant. But, perhaps you are not stressed out? Maybe you are about to crawl out of your skin? We’re all wired differently. That actually makes society work better. These differences determine how we approach work, life, and times of stress. At StyleBlueprint, some of our team isn’t all that freaked out about coronavirus, while others are on high-alert.

Woman sitting on cliff

We’re all different, express our stress differently and have different needs. Instead of being judgemental, let’s try to understand each other.

In an effort to better understand how our natural tendencies shine in times like these, and to better understand those around us, we turned to Evan Barbee, a certified Holistic Life Coach, Enneagram consultant, and educator. She is known for her ability to take stressful situations and distill them down into clear moments that are easier to understand and navigate. Evan is also a trained teacher and practitioner in the Narrative Enneagram tradition and serves on the board of The Narrative Enneagram.

(If you want to learn more about the Enneagram, HERE’S A LINK to a free online Enneagram personality assessment. In a nutshell, Enneagram theory maintains that we all fall into one of nine groups, and these are denoted as Types 1-9.)

How does our Enneagram number impact how we respond to stress — specifically, to this coronavirus situation?

Evan Barbee (EB): The coronavirus, tornados, political upheaval! Any of these might send the most calm and consistent individuals among us into “survival mode.” In fact, that is what the Enneagram system describes — nine different ways we move to protect ourselves from things that feel unsafe. Each personality structure provides a mode of operation or survival strategy, which is very much related to how we are hardwired in a mechanical sense and to what we pay attention to.

  • For some of us, crisis may lead us to numb out, appearing calm and resilient from the outside (Types 5 and 9).
  • Others may feel it difficult to move on quickly as they are tuned into the grief and loss of their whole community (Type 4).
  • Some may downplay the impact on themselves and focus on others (Types 2, 7, and 3).
  • Some may look to rescue people (Types 1 and 8).
  • Others feel “born for moments like this” and instinctively know what to do in the midst of a crisis (Type 6).

Of course, these are broad generalizations, and each individual will have their own unique expression of their type pattern.

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Which numbers are more prone to be stressed out, and which are more likely to remain
calm? How can they support and be respectful of each other?

It is awfully important in moments like this to recognize fear and uncertainty will only escalate our tendencies and amplify the impulse we feel to protect ourselves. If you don’t feel stressed but you work with individuals who by contrast seem to be panicking or over-reacting, take a few moments to appreciate that they might see a very different world than you do — it doesn’t make them wrong, it makes them different. Practice observing. Practice patience and meet people with the same kindness you would hope to receive should the roles be reversed.

I don’t know that the lines are all that clearly divided here between Enneagram type for who will more likely remain calm. All types will feel stress in moments like this, though where we direct that energy varies greatly. The Hornevian theory (which is part of the Enneagram) is something to consider:

  • This theory says Assertive types “move against” (3, 7, 8), perhaps redirecting the fear and stress into action or problem-solving while attempting to remain in control.
  • The Dutiful types (1, 2, 6) “move toward” others and may begin organizing support and resources in their community.
  • The Withdrawn types (9, 4, 5) tend to “move away,” feeling overwhelmed and tending toward isolation.

How can someone who is stressed out, or someone who is not, lean into their natural tendencies to be a good community member who is not judging the way others are reacting?

It is important for ALL of the types to try to stay emotionally open and curious and work with their own reactions.

  • Practice calming your nervous system by focusing on your breath — deep breaths at the lowest part of the belly.
  • Ask for support; sometimes just telling people the thought or feelings racing across your mind makes all the difference.
  • Don’t judge yourself or others.
  • Try not to make assumptions.

Basically, everything you already know you should do — do MORE of it.

Byron Katie, one of my favorite teachers, says, “If you believed what other people believe, you would do what they do.” Keep in mind that everyone is doing the best they can in the moment!

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Any other suggestions or pointers to help people remain calm?

Now is a GREAT time to develop a meditation practice, download some great podcasts on mindfulness and practice self-care. I love listening to Anthony De Mello, Jack Kornfield, Byron Katie, and of course, EnneagramWorldwide.com. Create an arsenal of tools that will help you respond to the pressures of life in a more conscious and compassionate way. Moments like this are also growth opportunities!

Thank you, Evan. Learn more about Evan on her website, evanbarbee.com.

If you live in the Nashville area, we first heard Evan speak at FYI.Health. Check out these wellness topics, discussed in small groups, for an intimate and personal way to get the answers you want and need!

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